WASHINGTON – Edwin Meese, former U.S. attorney general in the Reagan administration, told PJM that President Trump “clearly” has the constitutional authority to implement his executive order restricting travel from certain Muslim-majority countries.
Meese predicted that the order would be “upheld” in the appeals process if judges follow the Constitution.
Meese also told PJM he supports Trump’s executive order on blocking federal funding to sanctuary cities, which was blocked by a federal judge.
PJM asked Meese if he is satisfied with the Trump administration’s strategy of issuing executive orders on sanctuary cities and travel restrictions, rather than involving Congress.
“Yes, I think what the president is trying to do both in terms of deregulation, getting rid of unnecessary regulations that are only hurting the economy, I think what he’s done in terms of his appointments, certainly to the cabinet and the other appointments, are excellent, particularly the Supreme Court appointment of Justice Gorsuch, so I think they’ve done very well,” he said during an interview after the recent Republican National Lawyers Association’s Annual National Policy Conference.
When asked if the volume of executive orders issued under the Trump administration is inviting criticism from Democrats, Meese replied, “I don’t think the executive orders give them the openings for attack. I think what has happened is you have a group that have classified themselves as the resistance to good government and I think that’s the reason why you have all these legal battles.”
The Trump administration is currently involved in a legal battle over its executive order that restricts travel from Iran, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Somalia and Libya, and pauses the admission of refugees. Meese said the executive action is “clearly within the province” of the president’s powers.
“I think the concept of a temporary limitation on travel from countries, which are identified by the Obama administration as the source of terrorism, that it is appropriate to make sure we have the necessary vetting process in place before those people start coming into this country. It’s a temporary step in order to protect people in the United States from potential terrorists and I find nothing wrong with it,” Meese said.
“As a matter of a fact, I think, particularly as it was corrected, refined in the second order, the one that’s in effect right now, I think it’s very appropriate and I think certainly the power to issue such an order, which was what was attached by those who opposed it and the idea of the order itself, is clearly within the province of the president of the United States under the Constitution dating all the way back to 1787,” he added.
PJM asked Meese if he thinks the court is going to uphold the executive action.
“I believe that if the judges follow the law and follow the Constitution that the travel order will be upheld,” he responded.
Meese said he supports the executive action on sanctuary cities, which is also tied up in court.
“I think the action against so-called sanctuary cities, which is nothing more than a defiance of federal law, and the refusal to cooperate with the federal officials to get rid of serious criminals that happen to also be illegal aliens – I think it’s a very important thing to do if we’re going to control crime because an awfully large percentage of many of our prisoners, something in the neighborhood of over 20 percent of all the prisoners in the federal prisons, are illegal aliens,” he said. “So, I think it’s important that law enforcement officers and public officials at all levels cooperate to take care of people who are committing crimes in this country who are not even legally here.”
PJM previously reported in August that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons “does not track the total number of Mexican citizens in our custody who have committed illegal entry or illegal reentry offenses.” Meese said that policy is likely to change under the Trump administration.
“I think things have changed now and this day and age when what had been a very lawless administration changed to people who believe in following the law,” he said.
Meese, who serves as the Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow Emeritus at the Heritage Foundation, commented on the board’s decision to oust former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) as its president. Meese said he is “very optimistic” about the organization’s future.
“I’m very optimistic. The Heritage Foundation is a very strong organization. It’s got a lot of excellent people. It’s got a very excellent leadership, particularly the heads of the different components of the foundation, a very good board. So I think it will just do nothing but continue the principle excellent work that it’s been doing over, gosh, almost 40 years,” he said.